A change of heart about Trados

For as long as I’ve been using translation memory tools (about 9 years), I’ve been using Wordfast and OmegaT. In general I’ve been happy with both of these tools; I love open source software in general so OmegaT has always had a special place in my heart, and I’ve always enjoyed Wordfast’s ergonomic features, excellent support and no-hassle upgrade system. For the majority of my work I do not use TM tools, both because a lot of my work is PDFs and because I feel that TM tools squeeze the flow out of my writing style, but I do have a few large recurring projects that require TM.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Trados concept: high price, lackluster support unless you buy a separate support contract, expensive upgrades, and so on. However I’ve also talked to a number of translators who I really respect, who are not in the high volume-low margin market and who are enthusiastic Trados users. So a few weeks ago, along came the perfect storm of circumstances: a client I really like approached me about a large (50-60K words) project that would require Trados Studio, I needed a new Windows computer anyway because my old XP machine was starting to die a slow death and my translation partner Eve Bodeux offered to take the Trados plunge with me. So rather than hemming and hawing about it for a year as I normally do with major decisions, in the space of a week I bought a new Windows computer, bought Office 2010, bought Trados Studio 2011 and Eve and I hired a colleague who was a Studio 2011 beta tester to give us an all-day orientation and training session before the big project started.

Now here’s where you need to sit down. Ask me what I think of Studio 2011. Go ahead, just ask. I love it. Hopefully this is proof that I’m not yet too old to change my mind, because after years of railing against the Trados business model and all things associated with it, I have to say that Studio 2011’s features are incredible, and that it was much easier to learn to use than I had anticipated. On the down side, I do still think it’s a little nutty that a piece of software that costs circa $1,000 doesn’t come with any human support unless you buy a contract, but here are some of my takeaways from about three weeks of using Studio 2011:

  • If you’re going to spend the money on this thing, learn to use it correctly from the start. I dove into Wordfast in the middle of a huge project and my abilities stalled out at using a TM, using a glossary and using the concordance feature. In 9 years of using Wordfast, I never really put in the effort to learn more, so I stayed stuck with the limited features I knew how to use. Whichever TM tool you use, don’t make that mistake: either teach yourself slowly, one feature at a time, or (my recommendation) hire a very knowledgeable colleague or Trados trainer to teach you how to use it.
  • Filter, filter, filter. The filters in Studio 2011 are fabulous. You can filter for all of the duplicate segments and translate them first, you can filter for all of the segments with a certain word in them, you can insert comments right in the segments and then your editor can filter for just the commented segments, and so on. Don’t underuse this feature!
  • Take some time to work on your settings. Here again, Studio 2011 has some really great features (see Tools>Options) that can save you a lot of hassle. For example you can blacklist your typical typing errors; for some reason I often type “tot he” when I mean “to the,” and the spell-checker doesn’t catch it because tot and he are real words. Now I’ve blacklisted that expression so that Studio alerts me if I type it. Ditto with naughty words whose non-naughty counterparts often appear in the documents you translate (i.e. pubic/public).
  • Whatever TM tool you use, or if you use no TM tool at all, just make sure that you’re making an objective decision rather than an emotional one. Definitely, when I work on something that needs to be really well written, I prefer to just open up a Word document and write. But I realized that for projects that require TM, I was resisting trying Trados for no particular reason other than that I insisted on resisting, if that makes sense.

Any other thoughts on selecting and learning to use a TM tool? Anyone tried anything new lately?

88 Responses to “A change of heart about Trados”
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